The final four or five rounds of yearly drafts are traditionally used to select a catcher, middle relievers that could be first in line to replace failed closers, and most importantly, to draft highly touted prospects that could become impact contributors at some point in 2016 – the “draft and stash” guys.
The hope is that these prospects will be promoted in April or May (like Nomar Mazara in Texas), but it could be June or even July. Very few prospects justify a roster spot for three or four months unless it is a league with a very deep bench, but the best prospects can warrant six to eight weeks of waiting and seeing.
This past week we heard the idea bandied about that Trea Turner could remain in Triple-A until June, the month when the Super-Two deadline passes making prospects ineligible for arbitration a year early. Nationals GM Mike Rizzo went so far as to tout his current shortstop, Danny Espinosa, as both a plus defender and a plus offensive player, neither of which is true. If the current public relations campaign on the part of Rizzo and his organization is to be believed, then you can probably release Turner from your roster but continue to monitor the rumor mill.
There are prospects that justify a promotion due to performance and won’t get one while there are prospects that aren’t deserving of a promotion and could. Whether a prospect is promoted in April or May has very little to do with performance and has a lot more to do with other factors beyond a player’s control.
If a major league team needs a prospect, then, regardless of money considerations, you might see a prospect promoted. We saw Red Sox catcher Blake Swihart, Astros shortstop Carlos Correa and pitcher Lance McCullers promoted much earlier in the 2015 season than analysts expected. On the other hand, if a team like the Twins or the Phillies or the Braves, for example, has little or no chance to contend for the playoffs, then they may choose to wait. The Super-Two deadline passes sometime in mid-June, or they might wait as late as mid-July or August. We frequently see that done with pitchers to control their innings, and we saw it with prospects like Phillies third baseman Maikel Franco and Twins outfielder Miguel Sano in 2015.
We are in the middle of the third week of the season and the pressure is starting to build about whether to continue waiting on our stashed prospects or to cut bait and claim someone else that can contribute now. The waiver wire is a hot place to claim breakout players that could become impact players for the entire season, but that period only lasts about four to six weeks before you have missed the boat. Holding onto Joey Gallo while Nomar Mazara was promoted, or Trea Turner or A.J. Reed, while Tyler White continues to crush the ball, could have already cost you Vincent Velasquez, Jeremy Hazelbaker, or Brandon Finnegan. How much longer can you afford to wait?
Here are some prospects that may or may not be promoted sooner or possibly later.
Trea Turner – Washington Nationals, SS
Stats: .400 Batting Average, .474 On-Base Percentage, one HR, six SBs
The company line is that he could remain in Triple-A until June, but the Nationals are contenders in 2016 and Danny Espinosa is batting .158 with a .280 on-base percentage with one extra base hit and zero stolen bases. If I knew that he would be batting in the minors until mid-June then I would suggest that you release him, but if this continues into early May we could see Turner stealing bases with the Nationals very soon. Hold on for two more weeks and revisit the thought.
Henry Owens – Boston Red Sox, SP
Stats: 18 Innings Pitched, 10 BBs, 23 Ks, 1.00 ERA
23 strikeouts in 18 innings and a 1.00 ERA are impressive, but 10 walks is the bigger, much scarier story. The bloom is off of Owens’ rose after a disappointing 2015, so it is more likely that he is on your waiver wire than sitting on an owner’s bench waiting for the call that is rumored to be coming.
With Joe Kelly being placed on the 15-day disabled list with a shoulder impingement that has Red Sox people nervous, Owens or journeyman Sean O’Sullivan appear to be in line for the promotion. Owens is the touted prospect and with those strikeout numbers he has the potential to make a Fantasy impact if he receives the opportunity, but the high number of walks and his history of command issues minimize the likelihood that he succeeds if given the chance.
I am hard pressed to make Owens a priority claim, especially since he will pitch in Fenway Park and against the hard-hitting AL East, but he warrants a close monitoring when he does get the call.
Joey Gallo – Texas Rangers, 3B/OF/1B
Stats: 11 Games Played, 10 SOs, 10 BBs, four HRs, .308 batting average, .417 OBP
Gallo is being “better than we should expect” Gallo. We are seeing strikeouts, home runs along with walks and the “better than should be expected part,” a .308 batting average.
He hasn’t given the Rangers a reason not to promote him, but they bypassed him for Nomar Mazara when Shin-Soo Choo was placed on the disabled list. Ian Desmond has been awful and Prince Fielder hasn’t been much better, while Mitch Moreland has been barely holding his own. The Rangers are in first place in the AL West and rank sixth in major league baseball in runs scored, so they don’t need Gallo but he would be an upgrade and should have plenty of opportunities for at bats if they choose to promote him.
Continue to roster him until we get a better sense of how the Rangers plan to play this. Gallo will be an impact power source if he gets at bats and he should qualify at multiple positions too.
Alex Meyer – Minnesota Twins, SP
Stats: 17.1 IP, 19 Ks, four BBs, 1.04 ERA, .87 WHIP
Jose Berrios is the top pitcher in the Twins’ system, but Meyer has the best pure stuff in the organization. The problem with Meyer, both at the minor league and major league level, has always been poor command. He is a tall, lanky, long levered right-hander that has been unable to harness his mechanics consistently to maximize plus velocity and an above average set of secondary pitches.
Meyer pitched poorly out of the bullpen in 2015, but they have decided to give him another try as a starter in Triple-A, and so far it’s working well. The Twins are likely to be deliberate with Berrios to limit his innings, which could mean that if Meyers can maintain his command he could be the first promotion when the Twins need a starter. They have received sporadic pitching from their starting five, which could mean an early promotion. Meyer is an arm to monitor.
Alex Bregman – Houston Astros, 3B/SS
Stats: 11 GP, five HRs, .308 BA, .382 OBP, two SBs
This one is the equivalent of a Hail Mary pass, but after what we saw with Carlos Correa and Lance McCullers in 2015, I would be remiss to ignore even a long shot.
He was drafted in 2015 and he is already dominating Double-A in what is a very small sample size, but dominance is dominance and the Astros didn’t wait long to promote Correa or McCullers. Another obstacle is that he is a shortstop who theoretically could play second base, but the only position the Astros could use Bregman would be third base, where Luis Valbuena has a .286 OBP and .549 OPS.
Bregman is a player to watch because a start this good would be stupid to ignore, even in yearly leagues. It’s unlikely that the Astros would rush him to the major leagues to field a position he has never played before, but he is going to need to change positions eventually, and if he continues to hit like he has he could force their hand much sooner than they thought. A quirk in a lot of Fantasy leagues is that Bregman is likely to qualify at shortstop if he is promoted even though there is zero chance that he plays any games there, making him more valuable than he otherwise might be as a rookie.